There's a serial killer on the loose, working his way through the alphabet and the whole country is in a state of panic.
A is for Mrs. Ascher in Andover, B is for Betty Barnard in Bexhill, C is for Sir Carmichael Clarkein Churston. With each murder, the killer is getting more confident - but leaving a trail of deliberate clues to taunt the proud Hercule Poirot might just prove to be the first, and fatal, mistake.
©1936 Agatha Christie Limited (P)2003 HarperCollins Publishers
I really do enjoy these well-narrated Agatha Christie novels, and this one doesn't disappoint. Although I'm not a huge fan of the egotistical Poirot, I am a big fan of Christie's mysteries and her (other) characters and, yes, Poirot is growing on me, if only as a somewhat laughable genius.
This mystery involves a series of alphabetical murders - the person's name and their town, running down the alphabet - that have been fortold in a series of taunting letters sent to Poirot, daring him to stop them or solve them. For reasons that later become apparent, it takes Poirot to the fourth murder (in Doncaster) to solve the problem and find the murder. In the interim, there are suspects, witnesses, red herrings, subtle clues, and a roulette wheel.
I recently found out that the character of Arthur Hastings (Poirot's friend who chronicles many of his adventures in several Agatha Christie novels) was played for almost 25 years on TV by the narrator of this book, Hugh Fraser. A nice match.
Another installment illustrations the methodical workings of Hercule Poirot's little gray cells. Rather fantastic seeming, the first serial murder case Hastings has told us about. The alphabetical nature did have me wondering. I liked the new investigative legion of victims' family/friends to help hone in on the culprit. I particularly liked a comment Poirot made about how conversation was the undoing of concealment and his quoting that speech was man's invention to prevent thinking. He hinged much throughout the investigation on what would come to light in the course of discussion - and, of course, he was right. And as always he (and the narrative) employed a little misdirection and suggestion while the pieces fell into place. Leading up to the traditional reveal scene I still had no clue how the explanation would go...my suspicions had been thoroughly diverted. Until he said something in the early moments of his speech about the nature and personality of the killer, and it suddenly dawned on me. Still a nice little surprise or two in the denouement after that. Trusty narrator Fraser again did not disappoint, incorporating numerous voices and accents to distinguish not only the traditional cast but more than a dozen other major and minor players. An interesting mystery, unique in many ways, and yet still classic Christie / Poirot style.
I was very disappointed in this storyline. The reading of course was wonderful. The story however did not live up to past expectations. The A, B & C characters all had the same initial for their first and last names. This tradition should have continued. In addition, the thought process seemed scattered and random. Not one of my favorites.
This is one novel that never gets old for me. The characters, while all mostly minor, are so well drawn and inspire so much empathy that with each re-reading I find something new to enjoy. It's certainly the best of the Poirot novels.
Whether book or David Suchet/Hugh Fraser film or this Hugh Fraser narrated audio book, I enjoy the mystery and the language and the interplay of characters. First rate.
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